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382 The Only Clue

 Huo Shaoheng appeared thoughtful. "So your mother's name is 'Gu?'"

Xie Qingying thought Huo Shaoheng was referring to her calling Speaker Long, "Uncle." She composed herself and replied politely, "My birth mother's name was 'Gu,' but my stepmother is a 'Long' so it's alright for me to call Speaker Long 'Uncle.'" There was no consideration of kinship with marriages.

Huo Shaoheng smiled and said, "Of course not. I don't know if Speaker Long had mentioned it before but my Grandmother was a 'Xie.' If that's the case, we may be related."

"Oh?" Xie Qingying was surprised. "I had no idea! Uncle has never mentioned this and I just arrived to the Empire from Europe with my father and stepmother a few days ago. I'm still jet-lagged."

"Then Miss Xie should really take some time to rest. I won't keep you any longer." Huo Shaoheng nodded and strode away.

However, Xie Qingying was still confused as she carried the platter of grilled meat to Speaker Long's study. "Uncle, I just ran into Major General Huo in the hallway and he'd asked what my birth mother's name was. Did you talk about me to him?"

Speaker Long was overjoyed. "He really asked you?"

"Yes." Xie Qingying couldn't help giggling at Speaker Long's pleasantly surprised expression. "Why are you so happy. Did something good happen?"

"Something good? Oh, perhaps something good will indeed happen soon!" Speaker Long looked at the cup of Dahongpao tea and waved with dismissal, "No more tea. Old Ji, we'd better toast! Qingying, go find your aunt and tell her I want some Maotai wine. Where did she put it?"

Xie Qingying stood up with a smile. "I'll go find Aunt."

After she left, General Ji asked Speaker Long quietly, "You think those two have something?"

Speaker Long set down his tea. "Actually, I'd be both happy and worried if something happens between them."

General Ji thought about it for a moment and finally mused, "Actually it's not that complicated. Everything starts from an initial attraction. I think if they end up together, Nianzhi would end up being the matchmaker. What are you worried about?"

"Old Ji, you don't understand how people think at all. If they become a couple, that means Shaoheng has special feelings towards Gu Nianzhi. Otherwise how did you think he took a liking to Qingying so quickly?" Speaker Long shook his head. "But I'm going to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't make any mistakes!"

General Ji's feelings towards Huo Shaoheng was different from Speaker Long's. Speaker Long was only considering national interests when it came to his treatment of Huo Shaoheng, while General Ji had watched Huo Shaoheng grow up and cared for him like a nephew. "Old Long, honestly speaking I don't think Shaoheng and Nianzhi have anything going on. Even if they do, I won't oppose as long as we can prove Gu Nianzhi has a clean background."

"You won't oppose?! So what if Gu Nianzhi has a clean background? She's been under the care of Shaoheng since she was 12. If others get wind of this what would they say about him? Don't you know that the pen is mightier than the sword?!" Speaker Long slammed the coffee table hard. "You'd know what I'm talking about if you've survived the perils of elections. Anything and everything will be magnified and used against him: the truth will be twisted beyond control."

"Old Long, this is where we see things differently. A noble man has nothing to fear; let the naysayers screech all they want! We can't keep them silent anyway. When you have a conflict of interest with someone, they can fabricate your weaknesses even if you don't have any. Why worry about what people think?" General Ji waved his hand in dismissal. "It's fine, Old Long. No matter what, we shouldn't argue anymore. We are both looking out for Shaoheng and he's an intelligent man. He won't disappoint us."

His expression darkening, Speaker Long considered it some more and nodded reluctantly. "Fine then. Old Ji, you've convinced me this time, but we have to make things clear now. Shaoheng's position in the military is crucial and his wife must be approved by the government and military. Also, she also has to go through the most stringent background checks. Do you agree?"

"I agree! Of course! Shaoheng knows the gravity of this matter. He will not marry someone he's not sure about. You can rest assured." General Ji and Speaker Long put out their palms at the same time and struck each other in a promise. It had been decided.

...

Huo Shaoheng went back to his car gripping the strand of hair. His hand had been warm to begin with and was now damp with sweat. Worried that that he would contaminate the DNA, he said to Yin Shixiong in the car, "Big Xiong, are there plastic bags to hold evidence in the car?"

"Yes, we have some in the glove compartment." Yin Shixiong reached over and opened the compartment to take out a small box. He opened it and took out a brand new plastic bag.

"Give the whole box to me." Huo Shaoheng reached his hand out and Yin Shixiong did as told. Huo Shaoheng opened the box and took out transparent plastic gloves to put on, then used small tweezers to carefully move the stand of hair onto a piece of white tissue to absorb his sweat before finally placing into the plastic bag.

Yin Shixiong glanced behind him but didn't ask anything. He looked straight ahead in silence. Everyone was quiet during the ride home and they quickly arrived at the Special Ops headquarters base. Instead of going back to his official residence, Huo Shaoheng called Chen Lie.

"Where are you?"

Chen Lie had been busy doing DNA tests on the blood samples of all the "Gu Xiangwen's." He had only just returned home to catch a few hours of sleep when Huo Shaoheng's phone call woke him up. Eyes closed as he covered himself in the blanket, he yawned and said, "Boss, you'd better have something important to say to me. Otherwise there'll be serious consequences to waking me up!"

Huo Shaoheng ignored him. "I have something important to ask of you."

"What is it?" Chen Lie barked.

"I got a hold of something and want you to do a DNA test on it." Huo Shaoheng paused as his index finger mindlessly rapped on the side of the car window. The sound was especially jarring in the silent car.

Chen Lie ripped his blankets off and sat up, one hand running through his messy hair. After a long silence he finally said, "Where did you get it from? I'm telling you, those people are all wrong! They have no relation to Nianzhi! I've tested many DNA fragments-basically everything by now. Where did you even hear that the name Gu Xiangwen has something to do with Nianzhi?"

Of course, Huo Shaoheng couldn't divulge where he learned this from. "According to national security laws, I cannot divulge my sources of intelligence to you."

Chen Lie fumed. Fine, you can do whatever you want because of your high rank. He dragged himself out of bed and was in a downright foul mood but still agreed to the man's request. "I'll go to the lab right away. Where's your item? Can I at least know what it is?"

"It's a strand of hair." Huo Shaoheng looked at the small plastic bag in front of him. "Is that enough?"

"Of course. You don't have to worry about my skills." Chen Lie lazily picked up his clothes from off the ground. He didn't bother brushing his hair before he ran out of his house to head to the military base lab. He saw Ye Zitan on the way. She was holding a thermos as she chatted happily with a tall and handsome man. Jealousy surged in Chen Lie's heart but he pretended not to see them and jogged right past.

The man glanced at Chen Lie's back then looked at Ye Zitan, unsure of what to say.

Ye Zitan was in the middle of talking about something interesting that had happened at the hospital. "I was making rounds and had just sat down for a break when someone opened the door to my office. He rushed in to bow at me and I was so surprised that I helped him up right away. I asked him what he was doing."

"And then?"

"And then he told me about his illness and I felt so awkward!"

"Oh?"

"Because he went into the wrong office and bowed to the wrong person!" Ye Zitan sputtered. "You should've seen his face. It was like he wanted to beat me up!"

"Well it wasn't your fault." The man nodded. "As the saying goes, desperate patients will go to all the doctors. There have been cases of patients going into the wrong offices."

Ye Zitan sighed deeply. "Dr. Hou is so understanding and has a good temper too. Patients love doctors like you."

The man was Hou Qingren. He had been sent from another hospital to the Imperial Capital Hospital to study and was especially friendly to Ye Zitan. "Dr. Ye is being too kind. Why does it matter if a doctor is good tempered or not? As long as they can cure the patient then even the most ill tempered doctor is a life saver." Hou Qingren was good with words and flattered Yi Zitan.

"Yes, yes, some people have bad tempers but their medical skills are unrivaled and subscribe to good ethics. What more can be asked for?" Ye Zitan said as she looked at the dormitory building up ahead.

Hou Qingren smiled. "I still haven't asked you: who is the thermos for?"

"Oh, it's for Dr. Chen. He's been busy with military business for the last couple of days and I heard he hasn't een sleeping or eating properly. I happened to make some soup and wanted to give it to him." Ye Zitan walked to Chen Lie's building and said to Hou Qingren, "I don't even know if he likes soup."

"I don't know if Dr. Chen likes soup or not either but I do know he's not in the building." Hou Qingren pointed with a smile.

"How can that be?" Ye Zitan was surprised. "I recall that he's always slept in the dorm?"

"He just passed us by earlier- he went that way." Hou Qingren pointed to the other direction.

"Oh! Why didn't you tell me? I didn't even see him," Ye Zitan said anxiously as she cradled the thermos with her right hand. She stood in thought for a few seconds. "I'd better go take a look over there then. Dr. Chen is probably at the lab." Ye Zitan said goodbye to Hou Qingren and headed to the lab.

Hou Qingren sighed and shook his head before turning to leave.

...

Chen Lie arrived at the lab to see Huo Shaoheng already waiting at the door. He passed the plastic bag over to Chen Lie as soon as he came. "Let's get started. When can we expect the results by?"

Chen Lie took the bag and said listlessly, "Depends on what kind of result you want."

"What do you mean?"

"It depends on what kind of kinship we are testing for." Chen Lie opened the lab door to walk inside and put on the white lab coat hanging on the wall. "What kind of relative is this? The mother?" Last time, they had tested to see if any of those people were Gu Nianzhi's father. This time, he assumed the hair would naturally be to test for her mother.

Huo Shaoheng smiled faintly. "No. This time I don't know what of relationship it is. You can do any test you need."

"Are you kidding me?!" Chen Lie was upset. "Are you setting me up? How could I test for that?" Immediate family was the easiest to test for but if the relationship was unknown it was beyond difficult to test for.

Huo Shaohen patted Chen Lie on the shoulder so hard he was nearly smacked to the ground. "Chen Lie, I believe in you. You're so smart and capable! You'll definitely be able to find any similarities between this strand of hair and Nianzhi's to figure out their kinship. Right?"

Chen Lie shot him a sidelong glance and then smirked. "I never thought that the Boss would compliment me one day or that I would actually live to see the day! Fine. With your blessing I'll give it a try." Setting the instruments on the lab bench, Chen Lie put the strand of hair inside to first extract the DNA sequence. He then went on to test comprehensively and compare it with Gu Nianzhi's DNA. This was the most accurate method of testing because they weren't certain on the kinship status. It had been much simpler before when he previously knew the kinship and was just using DNA testing to confirm it. Immediate family would have 99.5% or above in similarity in DNA sequences. If the similarity was below this it meant it was not immediate family.

Huo Shaoheng reminded him, "This time it's not immediate family, but cousins-if they have any connection that is."

Chen Lie shook his head wearily. "I don't need you to tell me that. We'll let the DNA speak for itself!"

Huo Shaoheng smiled as he folded his hands behind his back and walked over. He cocked his head and watched Chen Lie skillfully use the instruments.

Soon after, Ye Zitan's voice sounded from behind them. "Oh? Mr. Huo is here too?" Ye Zitan came over holding the same thermos.

Chen Lie wanted to turn around but felt pained when he recalled the earlier scene. He diligently continued his experiment with a stiff neck. Huo Shaoheng looked at Ye Zitan, then at Chen Lie's awkward posture. He grinned as he said to Ye Zitan, "Dr. Ye is here, are you giving food to Dr. Chen?"

Ye Zitan was feeling awkward because Chen Lie was ignoring her. She'd meant to leave right after but couldn't bear herself to. Huo Shaoheng's words gave her an excuse. She brought the thermos over and nodded. "Yes, I saw that Dr. Chen hadn't been able to eat or sleep properly the last few days, so I've made some soup for him.

Chen Lie's ears perked but he refused to turn around. Huo Shaoheng cast him an amused look and said, "Oh, maybe Dr. Chen doesn't want any soup. Well, I on the otherhand happen to be hungry. Give it to me and I promise to finish it."

"Get out of here!" Chen Lie suddenly turned around to grab the thermos from Huo Shaoheng. "Go home if you're hungry. Why are you stealing my food?"

Huo Shaoheng laughed. "I thought you didn't want to eat it so, I accepted it for you. Fine, since you want it so bad, why don't you ask for it straight?" He winked at Chen Lie then pat Ye Zitan's shoulder before leaving the lab.

Chen Lie shouted after him, "Just get out won't you! Why do you have to be so obnoxious?" He was irritated that Huo Shaoheng touched Ye Zitan.

Ye Zitan hastily interjected. "Dr. Chen, Mr. Huo doesn't have any ill intentions, so don't speak to him like that. Here, do you want some soup?" Chen Lie's annoyance was completely forgotten by Ye Zitan's soothing words. He smiled foolishly at the table as he watched Ye Zitan set out utensils for him to eat and appeared especially happy.

Huo Shaoheng turned around before leaving the lab and smiled at the scene as he walked out.

Gu Nianzhi had been waiting for Huo Shaoheng to come home but hadn't heard anything even by midnight. He had not shown up the whole weekend and hadn't come home once either. Gu Nianzhi went back to campus Sunday night in a bad mood. Why had he sent someone to pick her up if he hadn't even planned on seeing her? What was he trying to say?

Huo Shaoheng had spent the last two days eating and sleeping at the lab in order to oversee Chen Lie's experiment. By Sunday night, the DNA test was finally complete. Chen Lie looked at the results and carried a thick stack of paper over to Huo Shaoheng's office. He knocked on the door. "Boss, we have results."

Huo Shaoheng looked up and although his expression remained stoic, his hands trembled slightly with excitement.

Chen Lie completely missed this because he was also excited. "Boss, it's been six years and we have finally found someone related to Nianzhi!"

Huo Shaoheng stood up. "Did you determine what kind of relationship they have?"

"If it's from her father's side, this should be her cousin, " Chen Lie said shakily. "If it's from her mother's side, it will be more complicated. Boss, tell me: is this is on the paternal side?"

Huo Shaoheng flipped through the report and nodded. "I'm guessing so." If there really was a kinship, then Xie Qingying's birth mother, Gu Tian, was probably Gu Nianzhi's father's sister." Since they had results, Huo Shaoheng didn't need to conceal anything from Chen Lie and so told him about Xie Qingying's situation.

Chen Lie was floored. "If that's the case, then this is as good as gold! DNA testing can determine immediate family, plus we know they have similar appearances-this has got to be it." He asked, "What about Gu Tian? If we can find her we can find Gu Xiangwen too."

"That's the tricky part." Huo Shaoheng sighed deeply. "Gu Tian died a long time ago."

Chen Lie stared at him in disbelief.

"How did she die? Did we confirm this?"

"Over the past two days I had Little Ze help me figure it out; I had also called my cousin in Europe to ask about Xie Qingying's mother" The cousin Huo Shaoheng was referring to was his grandmother, Xie Ziyan's, nephew.

"What did he say? If Gu Tian had lmarried into the Xie family, the Xie's must know everything about her, yes?" Chen Lie asked eagerly.

"That's not the case." Huo Shaoheng shook his head with a frown. "Xie Qingying's father and my cousin's family are many generations apart and are not close knit at all. But the Xie's are very traditional with their ways and keep everyone on the same family registry, so I guess they are still considered relatives."

"Oh? So your cousin doesn't know about Gu Tian?"

"My cousin's family attended their wedding twenty something years ago and has some memory of her. He remembers she was sickly and died a month after giving birth." Huo Shaoheng took out his own investigation results. "So our only clue right now is Xie Qingying's father, Xie Dezhao."